Ken Saro Wiwa: We Are Because He Was

Ken Saro Wiwa was born on the 10th day of October, 1941. He was the first son of late Chief Jim Beesor Wiwa hence he was called “Saro” meaning ‘first son’. He was the only Ogoni boy among Three Hundred students in Government College, Umuahia in 1954. Ken Saro-Wiwa attended the famous University of Ibadan in 1962. He taught at the universities of Lagos and in U.N.N.

He crossed over to the Nigerian side in 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War and became an administrator of Bonny, a Governor like position. When on the 27th day of May, 1967 Rivers State was created alongside other eleven states under Gen. Yakubu Gowon, he became a pioneer Commissioner for Education. Later works and Transport Commissioner and left the cabinet as Commissioner for Information in 1973. He became a commissioner at the tender age of 24.

His concern for the struggle for the survival of the Ogoni started in his days in the secondary school in far away Umuahia and he wrote his first book “Ogoni Nationality, today and tomorrow”. He used his position as Commissioner to rehabilitate his Ogoni people and started emancipating them through education. Perhaps this precipitated his dismissal from the council.

Ken was indeed a man who would never be careful. He would take the bull by the horn; he would hit the nail on the head. Fear was foreign to him. No matter what it takes, he was born to be feared and not the reverse. He was a rare gem and a peculiar creature, not being physically, massively or structurally endowed his brain was 100% a blessing to nations particularly the Ogoni.

He turned to business after his dismissal from the Rivers State Executive Council by Alfred Diette Spiff, and became a business tycoon in the U.S. and UK. In 1979 he contested an election to the Federal House of Representatives but lost it to the more partisan and less people oriented.

In the 1980 he started his popular television sitcom, “Basi and Company, wrote children plays as Mr. B, Mr. B. Goes to Lagos, Tambari, Tambari in Dukana, wrote more incisive books as “Prisoners of Jebs, ‘Genocide in Nigeria: an Ogoni tragedy,” second Letter to Ogoni Youths, ‘A forest of Flowers, On a Darkling Plane, ‘an account of the Nigerian Civil War. A Month and Day: A detention Dairy etc. Facts have it that he wrote more than 23 books before he was gruesomely murdered. Indeed, this would have qualified him as a professor if he had remained in the academic which he said was his dream but for the agony of the Ogoni which was his divine mission. He became president of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), president of EMEROAF and Vice President, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).

In September 1987, Ken was appointed the Executive Director of the Federal Government’s Directorate of Mass Mobilization for Self-reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER). Noticing that he could not mobilize the people and would not be asking them to question the military junta itself and which the junta never tolerated, he resigned.

By 1990, he had written the Ogoni Bill of Rights which was signed by the Ogoni elites in that year. He started his awareness and galvanization crusade thereby. By this act he has decided to walk majestically and noisily where even angels tiptoed. His activities and mobilization landed him in prisons and detentions on several occasions. He successfully organized over 500,000 Ogonis in 1993 in protest against Shell and the Nigerian nation without any violence at all. This was indeed a non-violent struggle and methodology. The people really believed in him and he was most cherished of all Ogoni elites. Indeed, he had taken over from late Chief Paul Timothy Naaku Birabi, the first Ogoni emancipation crusader. During his leadership MOSOP was founded and widely embraced, leading to the sacking of Shell from Ogoni in 1993. This became an insult to the oppressive military cabals led by Dictator General I.B. Babangida who vowed to do the worst.

Ken Saro-Wiwa organized over one hundred rallies before his slaughter in 1995. He faced several trumped up charges. He was detained for a month and a day but was finally released on 22nd July, 1993.

He wrote his detention dairy and ended in a manner that looked predictive of his fate this way. “The genocide of the Ogoni had taken on a new dimension. The manner of it I will narrate in my next book, IF I LIVE TO TELL THE TALE”. Indeed, he never lived to tell the tale as he was arrested barely three days after then from where he never saw freedom till he was brutally killed on November 10th 1995, 18 years ago at the end of a kangaroo tribunal presided over by Justice Ibrahim Auta, Borno man.

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